Why it matters
Our countryside has been transformed in the last few decades, as colourful and diverse drylands turn into the monotonous green pastures.
This transformation has only been made possible by irrigation.
Between 1994 and 2015, there was a nearly 70 percent increase in dairy cows nationally. As dairy cow numbers have increased so has the need for water. Reliable water leads to more intensive farming, and so the pattern goes.
Dams and large-scale irrigation schemes wreak havoc on the natural environment.
- More water means more cows and fertiliser, which leads to more pollution in our rivers
- Our rivers, lakes and aquifers are struggling as unprecedented amounts of water are taken for irrigation
- Ecologically rich dryland areas such as the Mackenzie Basin are disappearing as irrigation destroys habitat and pushes native species closer to extinction
We need to rethink our farming practices. The only way to ‘future proof’ our farms from a changing climate is to farm within environmental limits.
Innovative farmers are leading the way. Reducing cow numbers, fertiliser inputs, and dependence on irrigation has been shown to be more profitable than intensive farming.
What is Forest & Bird doing?
- In early 2018, we were successful in lobbying the incoming government to end irrigation subsidies
- Now, we are watching other Crown funding streams, and council funds, to ensure public money is not spent on environmentally damaging schemes
- We advocate for more funding to be made available to help farmers transition to sustainable farming methods